Day family is very thankful
PLYMOUTH — Nineteen-year-old Eric Day and his family will be celebrating Thanksgiving with a renewed sense of how much family, friends and a caring community truly mean.
After an ordeal that started the weekend before Halloween and escalated into two brain surgeries, days in intensive care, and rigorous physical therapy, Eric is finally home.
Eric had come home from Indiana State College in Terre Haute, where he is a freshman, to pick up a suit for an interview.
His parents, Ron and Lori, were in Washington, D.C. visiting his sister Katie, who was there on an internship from Butler University. When he began not feeling well and experiencing a severe headache, Eric stayed in bed for most of the weekend.
Ron and Lori found him in bed when they returned on Monday and had him seen locally for medical treatment with Dr. Joe Binit. When Dr. Binit reviewed the results of a precautionary CT scan, he immediately made arrangements to have him seen by a specialist in South Bend.
“Most of our family met Eric there – grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even cousins,” Katie said, adding that her parents called her to tell her the bad news... that the doctors had found a mass in her brother's brain they thought was a colloid cyst.
“I was just getting on the metro and seven stops later, I realized what mom had said,” she said. “I began losing it and just wanted to buy a plane ticket and get home.”
The surgeons in South Bend referred Eric to a hospital in Indianapolis for surgery. Although the plan was to have him flown to Indianapolis, tornado warnings grounded the flight and Eric was transported by ambulance.
Surgeons at the Indianapolis center confirmed the seriousness of the situation
“They said they were 95 percent sure it was a colloid cyst, but added that it was acting like a cork to stop the flow of spinal fluid,” Katie said. “They said he needed surgery within a few days or he would go to sleep and never wake up. That’s when we all realized the magnitude of the situation.”
Katie said she and her dad walked and cried while Eric was in surgery. The words of the surgeon afterward brought an even greater sense of panic. He said the mass was actually a tumor and they had only been able to remove 60 to 70 percent of it.
Katie said, “We all just kind of parted to deal with the news in our own way. But later we realized that we had all heard something different.”
At that point, the entire family then started coming together, making a list of common questions, and rotating sitting by his side in the intensive care unit. Things went from bad to worse. Eric had either a seizure or a stroke and then got pneumonia.
“It was so hard to see the nurses poking him and knowing he was in so much pain,” Katie said.
A second surgery was performed to put a permanent shunt in to allow drainage.
Surprisingly, Eric began communicating by writing.
“He wrote 20 times that he loved me,” she said. More remarkably, Eric contracted no more infections and was able to breathe on his own. By Sunday he was transferred to a regular room, responded beyond everyone's expectations with physical therapy and was able to come home last Wednesday.
Katie was able to pull off a surprise for her brother before leaving Indianapolis. Eric said he would like to meet a Butler football player, but Katie did one better and Butler head basketball coach Brad Stevens met with him instead.
Katie said, as it turned out, Stevens’ cousin is the one who read Eric's x-rays.
Although someone has to be with Eric around the clock, his family is thrilled to have him home and in his own bed. Eric lost 40 pounds during his time in treatment but has gained 14 pounds back already.
Ron is helping with the physical therapy to help Eric regain his strength. Eric has an appointment on Dec. 6 to determine when he can return to college.
Katie will assume full-time caregiver duties until Jan. 8, when she returns to her own classes. This will allow Lori to return to her librarian position at Lincoln Junior High.
“We don't realize how great our family is until tragedy strikes," Katie said. “We are so thankful to live in a community where people treat us like family.”
According to Katie, there were 10,000 hits on a website called “Caring Bridge” that carried the progress of Eric's recovery.
She said, “It made me think about the benefits of living in a small town. People have gone above and beyond generous.”
The family has set up a daily routine for Eric including two hours each evening for visitors.
But most thankful is Eric himself. The 2010 graduate of Plymouth High School has a close-knit core group of friends and is known for his funny personality and wit. A summer baseball umpire for the Plymouth Junior Baseball League, many young and old know Eric and were praying for his recovery.
“I'm really thankful for all the support and the prayers,” he said. “I want to thank Mike Sheetz for coming to see me. Also my family has been behind me and I love and appreciate them.”